Monday, March 27, 2006

Kicking Butt and Martial Ballet

I'm continuing my theme of "reality-based" or "street" fighting at TKD, mostly so I can respond to something Mike wrote to me.

He told me that the reason he beganKung Fu is so that he could, and I'm paraphrasing, learn to kick some butt. He was 17 when he started martial arts, and he assured me that kicking butt is one of a very few things that 17-year-old boys find interesting . . . I'll let you guess what he said the others were (or maybe Mike will post a comment here!)

It was his desire to learn how to beat people up that got him the dedication and focus he needed to excel in Kung Fu.

Hmm. That seems to match up with the focus of those articles in Black Belt, which seems to be primarily aimed at male martial artists.

But Ms. Pryor often points out to us that people learn martial arts for many different reasons. I didn't start martial arts so I could learn to kick butt. I started TKD because it looked both graceful and strong (I love that combination). Martial artists also learn how to focus during a performance, and I knew I wanted to work on that. The fighting part wasn't very interesting to me until I'd been doing TKD about 6 months.

Having people in our class with varied reasons for studying martial arts is a good thing, though. It allows different people's strengths and interests to support others in their areas of weakness. It adds a certain richness to the class that, say, Brian knows so much about self-defense, Justin is studying Kung Fu, I am a dancer.

Speaking of being a dancer, one article in Black Belt had a completely different angle from the many "reality" fighting articles around it. Columnist Floyd Burk wrote about Jhoon Rhee, a taekwondo Black Belt Hall of Fame member and "the martial art's most benevolent master." In the picture, he looks like a Yoda of a guy, an older Korean martial artist. The cutline for the photo says "The philosophy of Jhoon Rhee holds that the practice of taekwondo offers much more than skill at self-defense; it also serves as a means of artistic expression." (italics mine)

Burk says that Rhee believes that taekwondo hould not be primarily used for combat. He quotes the master:

When the practitioner puts effort into his taekwondo training and seeks to perfect his movement, he is doing a beautiful martial ballet.

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